Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jesus won't unfollow you; So keep following Him

I remember sitting at the beach one day watching our kids play in the surf and build sand castles. As I scanned the beach, I noticed a father and son walking along the waters edge. The boy was probably only three or four years old and trailed behind his dad by several yards. What caught my attention was that the son was doing everything in his power to walk in the footprints of His father. He had to jump each step in order to land in the next step, but it was clear that more than anything else, he wanted to be like his dad.

We are created to be followers. We follow our parents, we follow our friends, we follow our favorite sports figures. Growing up, I followed Isaiah Thomas because he was a short basketball player having great success in the NBA. I watched his games, I studied his style and I tried to imitate his game (in case you're wondering, it was a poor imitation). To follow someone is to watch them, study them and imitate them.


This morning, my Ephesians study took me back to the beginning of the book to review where we've been to this point. I didn't get past the first verse before I was struck by Paul's description of the Ephesian Christians. He wrote:
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I am writing to God's holy people in Ephesus who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
Paul knew these people because he had spent three years leading their church. When given the opportunity to describe them, he called them "faithful followers". They were watching Jesus, studying Jesus and imitating Jesus; and they faithfully kept doing it day after day after day.

I usually do a pretty good job of watching Jesus and studying Jesus, unfortunately I'm not always so good at imitating Him. My words don't always sound like His words. My attitude isn't always the same as His (check out Philippians 2 for more on that). My actions don't always impact others the way His did.

I need to follow Him more closely. I need to check myself regularly and ask whether or not I'm imitating the person I most admire. I hope you'll do the same!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I'm A Secret Agent...

I've been reading through Ephesians 4 repeatedly for the past few weeks. This chapter is full of lists and practical applications so I'm enjoying it.

One of my observations has been that Paul is really focused on how our relationship with God changes EVERYTHING about us. In this chapter, he points out that it changes our words, our attitudes, our work ethic and our relationships. Everyone of these changes serves to make us more mature and to look more like Jesus.

At the same time, all these changes are also beneficial for the people around us. When our words match His words, they are building up others. When our attitude matches His attitude, it is inspiring for those around us. The same is true for our work ethic, our generosity, etc...


So the question I'm asking myself today is:

Has God's work in my life made the lives of those around me better?

If I think God is only interested in making my life better, I've missed the point. He is redeeming His entire world and that means I am one of His agents of redemption. I'm going to try to pay close attention this week to see how God is changing me to change the lives of others.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Simple Tricks to Improve Your Bible Study Time

We all need a foundation in life. Some look to gurus for ultimate wisdom, others take their cues from celebrities. Podcasts are a new source for personal growth and ancient literature still informs the worldview of many.

My foundation is God's Word. Everything starts there for me, so I want to know it as well as I can. Here are 13 different approaches I take to help me open myself to the insight of the Bible.


1. Pray first

2. Re-write the passage in your own words

3. Jot down the first things that come to mind as you read

4. Make a list of questions you have

5. Use commentaries, friends, and the internet to find answers to your questions

6. Consider if the passage brings to mind teachings of Jesus

7. Think about Old Testament stories which may apply or be similar to the passage

8. Identify several key words and meditate on them

9. Use a concordance to find and consider other passages which use the same and similar words

10. Consider every day experiences which illustrate the passage's main idea

11. Write a personal response to the passage

12. Draw a picture illustrating the truth of the passage

13. Set a daily goal based on the teaching of the passage

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

3 Absolutely Unassailable Laws of Leadership

Proverbs 18 includes great advice for anyone who is trying to lead or influence people. Of course, everything in the Bible is really good advice for anyone trying to do anything. So, whether you are a leader or just someone who wants to be more wise (particularly in relationships), here are my three key lessons from Proverbs 18. I've included some of the specific proverbs so you can munch on them today:

1) Everything doesn't rise and fall on you; you are a part of a bigger whole.
  • Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
  • A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
  • A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
2) The most inspiring speeches are meaningless if they aren't preceded by big ears.
  • A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion
  • If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
  • The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
3) Constantly attempting to cultivate favor influential people is a quick fix with devastating results
  • It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.
  • The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday 13: Lessons We Can Learn From Suffering

It's Thursday again. And 13 is still my favorite number. So here's another edition of 13 for Thursday.

SUFFERING...


1. reveals our true identity

2. allows us to focus on our priorities

3. teaches us to rely on God and others

4. strengthens our resolve

5. proves our faith

6. develops our ability to persevere

7. teaches us what is truly important

8. enables us to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit

9. builds our strength

10. gives us a taste of the cost Jesus paid for our salvation

11. identifies our true loyalties

12. reminds us of the effects of our sins

13. fosters patience in our lives

Thursday, July 19, 2018

13 For Thursday: Thirteen Lessons from the Book of Philemon

I originally wrote this 10 years ago. And since it's Thursday, it seems right to post a "Thirteen for Thursday" just for old-times sake. Philemon is one of the shortest books in the Bible yet it is overflowing with great lessons. Take a minute to read the book and see if you can glean some other lessons. Here's my 13:

1. Church ministry is team-oriented, not individual-centric. (vs. 1-2)
2. Our prayers should be laced with thanksgiving for others (vs.4)
3. Love should be the identifying characteristic of all our relationships within the church. (vs.5 and more)
4. As believers, our lives should be refreshing to other believers (vs.7)
5. Love chooses not to take advantage of an authoritative position (vs.9)
6. Spiritual children are evidence of a missional life (vs.10)
7. Faith in Christ revolutionarily changes our lives (vs.11)
8. God is in control of every situation (vs.15)
9. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free... (vs.16)
10. We are all partners in ministry (vs. 17)
11. Forgiveness is necessary for love to flourish (vs.18)
12. Even if it means sacrificing, we should be catalysts of forgiveness between other parties (vs.19)
13. As much as you can, always give credit to others (vs.23-24)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Don't Be Defined By Your Past

Whichever translation of the Bible you use, Ephesians 2 begins the same way. It is a description of "you" (it's actually the Ephesians, but it applies to you). The different versions use different words, but they all have the same meaning:

NIV - "As for you, you were"
NLT - "Once you were"
ESV - "And you were"
NASB - "And you were"

The opening thought is about the life you once lived, your past. The picture Paul paints of the past isn't pretty, he says we were dead in sins.

Verse four is the exact opposite. Paul takes his eyes off us and puts them where they ought to be, on God"

NIV - "But... God, who is..."
NLT - "But God is..."
ESV - "But God, being..."
NASB - "But God, being..."

The contrast is between how we acted (dead) and who God is (merciful). The lesson is obvious. No matter what evil exists in your past, God's mercy extends to it. No matter how much wrong you may have done, God's love covers it. No matter how much blame you place on yourself, God is bigger.

Today, take a minute and remind yourself of this powerful truth:

What I've done before
Is not who I am anymore
Not because of my good deeds
But because of who God is!